After my highly-anticipated first trip to Paris this past April (and corresponding Paris Month event on my blog), I was so excited to see France featured in this past week’s HCC Summer Passport! So when Shannon asked me if I had any favourite books set in this beautiful country, I immediately took on the (enjoyable) task of narrowing it down to make it my Fab Five.
1. Die For Me by Amy Plum | A beautiful cover for a beautiful story. This paranormal story is not only a love story between two people, but a love story with a city. Kate and her sister move to Paris after their parents die in an accident. While her sister deals with her grief by going out and partying, Kate immerses herself in two things Paris is well known for: books & art. This love of Parisian culture leads her to catch the eye of Vincent, a Revenant who is fated to forever sacrifice himself to save others. Often action-packed, always beautifully set – this book takes the reader on a gorgeous tour of Parisian landmarks. I read this book just before heading to Paris myself, and had a lot of the mentioned hotspots in mind when I was sightseeing through the city, giving it an even more magical feel.
2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown | The book that consequently started the trend of this type of puzzle-solving mystery that blends factual elements with a fictional story. Robert Langdon is an Indiana Jones-type character, specializing in symbols. When an old friend is murdered in the Louvre under mysterious and symbolic circumstances, his expertise is called upon to shed some light to the case. What ensues is a race through the streets of Paris, searching for clues to solve the mystery before it was too late. Like with Angels & Demons, the first book in the Robert Langdon series, I found myself Googling all the locales and artwork that were mentioned in the book, to see for myself how it played into the plot. The seamless storytelling of meshing fact and fiction completely sucked me in and made for an even more compelling novel than if it were 100% fabricated.
3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay | A heart-breaking story told in parallel narratives: one of Sarah, a young girl in 1942 who is arrested with her family during the Vel d’Hiv’ raids, and the other of Julia, a journalist in 2002 writing about the anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv’ and soon discovers her connection with Sarah. The terror that is captured in this book of the 1942 arrests will stick with you. I read this over 2 years ago and still remember, and am still affected by it. Getting the chance to see that neighbourhood while in Paris, during a bike tour I went on, left me awestruck.
4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | An adorably cute light read for those who love a great contemporary YA story set in a fabulous foreign city. The title character is headed off to a Parisian boarding school, plucked away from her safe and familiar home life with all her friends. She is understandably unimpressed by this turn of events during her senior year until she befriends a gorgeous boy – which would be perfect… if he was available. Seemingly a fan favourite among many fellow bloggers, I was compelled to see for myself what it was about this book that had everyone fangirling over it.
5. Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore | What a crazy romp of a tale! Like I said in my review of this book, I felt like I was as high as the characters were while reading it. Lucien, a baker/painter attempts to solve the mystery of the untimely death of fellow artist, Van Gogh. With the help of his good friend Toulouse Lautrec, Lucien and his drunk, womanizing pal encounter a smattering of real and fictional characters as they bumble their way around Montmartre and the surrounding Parisian neighbourhoods. Being a huge fan of the movie Moulin Rouge, I loved that Sacré Bleu had a similar wild brothel vibe to it. Both very zany, very immersed in the art and both featuring the famed artist Toulouse, and which every time his full name was said in the book, all I could hear was John Leguizamo’s voice declaring it as he does in the Baz Luhrmann film!
While all of these I had read before visiting the City of Lights, I might have to go back and re-read them to enjoy these great books on a whole other level now that I’ve been to many of the places that are mentioned.